There are two times when I gave my undivided attention to cheap wines. The first was when I was learning to write tasting notes at my WSET class. The second was when I was researching what producers offered within different price segments so that I could price Bouké wines.
As a wine student learning to formally appraise wine, I first turned to wine that I drank back in the day – Mateus. My tasting note: A clear, pale coral-colored core, saturated to the rim. Slight amount of bubbles, reflecting CO2 left in the bottle to retain freshness. Fresh and clean on the nose. Light, uncomplicated citrus and peach aromas, but somewhat bland. On the palate, the wine is off-dry, with a slight prickle on the tongue. Light intensity of citrus and peach, Thin-bodied, with low acidity, medium alcohol and only short length. In conclusion, a simple, commercial quality wine designated for easy drinking. Drink now, as it lacks the acidity or tannin to develop. Mateus delivers at $5/bottle.
When researching wines as a producer, I wanted to know what was on the market below $10, $10-$20, $20-$30, $30-$40, and $40-$50 per bottle. In the least expensive price segment, I was looking for wines with enough fruit intensity to make them enjoyable for early consumption and good value. I expected uncomplicated, easy-to-drink wine with a short finish. What I didn’t like about some of the wines in this segment: a strange color, such a green gold, indicating oak chips, an aromatic profile outside of the normal boundaries, overripe fruit that made the wine heavy, overwhelming acidity, watery wine without fruit aromas or the taste of oak where there should have been fruit. In this price segment, I thought that Little Black Dress Chardonnay from California offered good value at $10 and significantly better quality than a $5 bottle: The oak flavor is sweet and not dry. The alcohol is not hot and aggressive. The citrus and fruit aromas are well balanced. Well done.
These wines are perfectly suitable for a town sweeper or a charity fundraiser – one nostalgic, one modern.